What are comfort, growth, and panic zones?
You may have heard these terms before – comfort zone, growth zone, and panic zone – but today I’m going to show you how these terms apply to life on the trail and how identifying your unique comfort zones, growth zones, and panic zones can lead to overall personal growth and development.
Keep in mind that a group of hikers may all be in the exact same situation but be in different zones, some may be totally comfortable, some may be growing, and some may totally freaking out!
Let’s Start With Your Comfort Zone:
You’re comfortable here.
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For most this means hanging out at home, going through your daily routine. For hikers, this could be hiking on a familiar trail, or a new, easy trail on a warm, bright sunny day with your friends.
The hiker comfort zone is a great place to be to unwind from a stressful work week (or month!) but nothing profound is happening here, no learning or exploring, and no grand adventures.
Your Personal Growth Zone:
You’re not exactly comfortable here, but you’re having a pretty good time and definitely want more of whatever it is you’re doing!
This the part of your life where you are fully engaged, you’re excited, nervous, feeling a little exposed, and learning new things. For backpackers, this could be night hiking for the first time, overcoming a tough scramble, or your first big mile day.
Your personal growth zone is a great place to challenge yourself, learn new things, accomplish goals, and generally kick some ass! This is usually where the best stories come from, and will leave you wanting more adventure.
Next, What Is In Your Panic Zone?
You are totally freaking out here!
No learning or joy is happening; panic and fear take over. Your body starts showing physical symptoms of a quickened heart rate, sweating, shallow breathing and you can only try to escape the situation and survive. For hikers, this could be during a harsh storm, a bear encounter, or a river crossing.
The tricky thing about the panic zone is that what your body is treating as a danger, may or may not actually be a danger to you.
If you start to feel panicky, take a breath and assess the situation, just for one second. Identify whether the situation you are in poses a real danger to you or others around you. Or if it is something you are simply afraid of, but will definitely 100% live to tell the tale about.
Then explore every option. Do you stay put until the situation passes? Hike on and power through it? Call in some extra help or support? Maybe take a few steps backward until you are safe again? Make the best decision for you!
Here is why you need to identify these zones:
Your personal comfort, growth, and panic zones are fluid and will change over time. Over time, you want to work toward moving experiences from your panic into your personal growth zone. Also moving experiences from your growth zone, into your comfort zone.
It is an amazing feeling when one day you realize that something you were afraid of, like sleeping alone under the stars, becomes something that brings you joy and fulfillment.
I believe it is impossible to reach your full potential without first identifying what is making you learn and grow in the first place (growth zone) and what is holding you back (panic zone.)
For more posts about living the hiking lifestyle, check out:
- What I Wish I Knew Before Hiking The AT Alone
- 14 Reasons To Hike The Appalachian Trail
- What To Do After Hiking The Appalachian Trail
Share something that’s in your growth zone in the comments below!